by Tina Haver Currin
Jesse and Sue Jones are well-known in Oakwood. Especially in October.
On the neighborhood listserv, residents are required to sign their messages with their full name and home address. But instead of a house number or street, the Jones family opts for “The Halloween House,” a clearer description of their location than an address might be. You probably know where they live, too. Because over the last six years, the home has become increasingly notorious, even outside of the neighborhood.
“I call it ‘Operation Scare Them Little Ones,’” Jones says of his seasonal hobby, which has him outfitting the couple’s handsome two-story neoclassical house on a corner lot at 504 Oakwood Avenue with spiders and zombies, tombstones, and ghouls every Halloween.
“Last year, we had over 2,500 visitors. And you must see my costume from a Hollywood production company.”
The more attention the house gets, the more elaborate the decorations seem to become. Last year, Jones purchased a life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex – the kind you’d expect to see at a mini-golf course or along the trails at the Museum of Life and Science – to guard the front door. The dinosaur’s giant jaws are caught in a perpetual roar, exposing two rows of pointy teeth.
But the real show happens Halloween night, when the house commands such a presence that the city and the neighborhood have to work together to close the area to traffic. The Oakwood Safety Committee places staff and barricades at Oakwood Avenue and Bloodworth Street, Oakwood Avenue and Elm Street, East and Lane streets, and East and Polk streets to create a buffer zone. Police direct traffic and escort particularly frightened children across the street.
“The Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood and Safety Committee have worked closely with Jesse to keep all the Halloween House visitors as safe as possible,” says Don Becom, safety chair for the SPHO. Becom, who usually details police reports or traffic incidents to the neighborhood, spends the months leading up to Halloween managing safety precautions related to the Jones’ home.
“As word has spread and the crowds continue to grow, it has been a challenge,” he admits. “But with volunteer help from the neighborhood, we’ve been successful so far.”
On October 31, dozens of volunteers from neighboring homes, as well as family members and friends, will pop out of half-buried coffins and bushes to startle unsuspecting visitors. With the help of the neighborhood, Jones hopes that the number of trick-or-treaters who visit Oakwood each year will continue to grow. But if you want to see the man behind the madness, you’ll need to check the roof. That’s where Jones prowls above his porch in a wolf costume fabricated by the same designers who work on AMC’s zombie thriller The Walking Dead. If you’re lucky – and brave enough to approach – he might just howl hello.